Islam 101

Islam 101: Salatul Tasbih

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies.

It is almost 2 am here in London and I just finished Salatul Tasbih. The Prophet (SAW) recommended for us to perform this prayer at least once during our lifetime. It’s a long one, but doing so will erase a lifetime of sins.

Honestly, after many nights of not sleeping after iftar, I am sleep deprived. Right now I can barely keep my eyes open. But tonight reminded me of the beauty of our faith. Prayer is a sort of meditation for us. It re-centers and grounds us, reminding us of what really matters. It’s coming up to 2 years since I became Muslim and I just have to be really thankful for where Allah (SWT) has brought me. This Ramadan has been a challenge but also a blessing.

Praying Salatul Tasbih reminded me of so much that I had forgotten. It brought forward a lot of insight into my own inner workings and reminded me that Allah (SWT) needs to be at the center of everything I do. It also reminded me of all the little bits of haram in my life that I need to fix. We all have these: little actions, words, thoughts that become habits that are subtly bringing us down in the background. Now, I feel in my heart an openness towards what I need to do to change and be the best Muslim I can be. I feel like I’ve been given a direction and now I know where to begin, insha’Allah.

I know it’s late and I’m getting too deep (don’t catch me in a discussion in the middle of the night, I get way too into it!), so I’ll leave you with the how-to below. It’s a little intimidating, but it’s worth it and you can do it!

Rasulullah ﷺ is narrated to have said to his uncle Hazrat ‘Abbas (R.A): O Abbas! O my uncle! Shall I not give you a gift? Shall I not show you something by means of which Allah will forgive your sins, the first and the last of them, the past and recent, the unintentional and the intentional, the small and huge, the secret and open? The Holy Prophet ﷺ then taught him the Salah al-Tasbih. Furthermore he advised him that it be offered daily, if possible. If not, then every Friday or once a month or once a year or at least once in one’s life time. (Abu Dawood)

The Tasbih that is read is: ‘Subhaanallaahi walhamdu lillaahi walaa ilaaha illallaahu wallaahu akbar’

Read here for the details on how to perform this prayer if you’re interested!

Much love,

Nahlah

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Ramadan Countdown Day 6

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

It is day 6 of the Ramadan Countdown and today we’re talking about social media.

I know that there has been a barrage of articles lately on the evils of social media and how it is ruining our lives. I apologize in advance for contributing to the witchhunt. Well actually, I’m not here to completely put social media down. It makes for a really great tool and most businesses today couldn’t succeed with out it. But while it has many benefits, there are also as many, if not more, pitfalls. It’s no mystery that social media has contributed to a number of mental health problems in its avid users. I mean, who can blame them? Consistently exposing yourself to carefully curated images that make it seem like everyone else is more beautiful, wealthy, successful, and smart than you is bound to have negative effects.

Following certain people can start off with good intentions but very quickly end in us feeling inspired to indulge in a lifestyle that is contrary to who we are and what we believe. Seeing beautiful women my age living their best lives in cute outfits with their hair like a crown shining through the screen is tempting. I could be one of those women, I kind of want to be one of those women. The more I look, the more I start to see the hijab as a burden and not a blessing. Why can’t I live my best life with my hair covered? In fact, my life should be even better because it takes me that much less time to get ready in the mornings. Also see, no bad hair days.

What about following people who post about doing haram things (partying, drinking, drugs, smoking, sex outside of marriage, etc.)? People who perform inconsiderate pranks? People who post crude humour (yeah, I know it’s funny but it’s Ramadan. Keep it halal, bro.)? I could keep going on, but I think another good way to prepare for focusing on deen is to go through our social media and curate who we follow. In other words, unfollow anyone who isn’t motivating you to be your true best self. And this best self means being the best Muslim you can be, the best daughter, the best sister, the best friend, the best wife, the best mother, the best employee, the best student, and/or whatever other role you fill.

If following someone is motivating you to be anything less than that or if following them makes you feel jealous or bad about yourself, then unfollow them.

In the past week I’ve had to ask myself, do I really need to follow a fashion blogger who has an enviable walk in closet and who’s style is the exact opposite of mine? Probably not. Do I need to follow a secular singer who also happens to be a Fashion Nova babe? Yeah, nah. These people live their lives, do what they want to do and that’s cool. But their lifestyle doesn’t match up with mine and social media doesn’t have many boundaries after you hit that follow button. I love seeing my feed full of other Muslim women, especially ones who have the same values as me. It’s encouraging and inspiring and that’s definitely something I need this Ramadan.

And if you want to go even further, delete all of the apps! Go crazy! Social media free for Ramadan 2020. For real, deleting it for a bit is so nice..but that’s up to you.

What are some pages you like to follow? Or are you social media free? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ramadan Countdown Day 9

Oh my gosh, you guys. I messed up. So, yesterday’s countdown was not posted and I am sorry. Weirdly enough, I’ve managed to be unnaturally busy during the lockdown and yesterday was a combination of running around trying to get things done and also coming down with a massive headache. Also I woke up too late for suhoor, but still fasted to make up for days missed last year. Not a good idea! So, to make up for my negligence, you guys get two posts today!

Ok, here we go! Day 9 of the Ramadan Countdown! I’ve touched on this in a previous post but today is the day to map out what foods you need to buy to make for iftar and suhoor. Trust me when I say that you will have no energy to go grocery shopping (especially now with the long ques) or make complicated dishes that take ages to prepare. If you can buy items in bulk now to save yourself the hassle, do it! Now, what you buy is entirely dependent on what your staple diet is. I know that a lot of people will go all out and eat all kinds of delicious things for iftar but a lot of times these things are not healthy at all. I’m not saying you should avoid them at all costs, but for the sake your health and your digestion, I’ve found that it’s better to eat your normal foods and save the treats for once a week at most.

I’m currently staying with family and my mother-in-law rules the kitchen so I’m just there to help. Thankfully, she already has her meals planned out and her ingredients ready. What a woman. Since staying with them, I’ve started eating a lot more simply. The diet staples that we eat are things that I would now buy and make if I were observing Ramadan back in my own house.

This is all that we’ve bought:

Bulk bags of rice, bulk bags of atta flour, daal, canned chickpeas, frozen veggies, bulk chicken (frozen), condiments from the Asian isle (they come in huge containers), turmeric, garam masala, chili powder, onions, garlic, ginger, potatoes, dates, oats/cereal, milk, fruit, nuts.

And the foods we’re eating:

Curry, rice, daal, roti, veggies, biryani, channa (chickpeas), potatoes, porridge/cereal.

It’s boring but delicious and easy. My MIL can cook all of this with her eyes closed and I help as much as I can so the cooking is done much quicker. There’s nothing special about any of the foods but on the bright side: no one is stressed about the cooking, we don’t gain unnecessary weight, clean up is quick, cost is inexpensive, we don’t feel sick after eating, and we don’t have to expend energy we don’t have to get it all done. Overall, it’s an enjoyable and efficient experience. Also, it’s best to choose the easiest most filling thing to eat for suhoor. I’ve realized that for me, that is cereal. You don’t have to cook it, it’s enriched with vitamins, and it’s filling. I also eat whatever fruit is easy and if I have any nuts like cashews on hand, I eat those as well.

Ok, lovelies, that is it for this post! With most cities being under lockdown most likely well into Ramadan, it’s definitely a good time to get what we need before the month starts. Those ques are no joke! See you in the next post!

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ramadan, Uncategorized

Ramadan Countdown Day 11

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

It is once again a beautiful day here in London and I am so happy! This weather really does make you feel like a superhero or a normally functioning adult. Love it.

Today is day 11 of our Ramadan Countdown and I’m back it again with the health advice. Today, I want to remind all of you out there with nutritional deficiencies and/or who rely on medication, to make sure that you stock up on what you need and have a game plan. I’m not going to pretend that I am a health expert, because I most certainly am not. I’m not even going to try and give you specific advice when it comes to any ailment outside of iron deficiency. Because, I just don’t know. Now is the time to speak to your doctor about appropriate measures to take to ensure that you can fast safely this Ramadan.

With iron-deficiency (a topic I know one thing about), it’s important to make sure that you keep your levels up during this time. I know for some of us, it can be such a struggle to get through the day normally. Iron deficiency, like any other, is no joke. Some of us have a minor case while others are more severe. If you get iron injections, speak to your doctor first before taking on any extreme physical challenge such as fasting. If you’ve been struggling with feelings of extreme exhaustion, apathy, lack of sex drive, weakness, dizziness, etc. you may have low iron. I’d like to redirect you to this amazing website started by a wonderful friend-of-a-friend. She has a powerful story and her website is full of helpful resources to get you the answers you need.

For suhoor, I’ve found that it works for me to take my iron, then eat fruit (oranges/tangerines especially), and cereal. The fruit aids in absorption of the iron and the cereal is fortified with iron as well. For iftar, I try to get as many greens in my meals along with a solid form of protein. You can try to incorporate spinach into all of your meals and beef/chicken, if you eat meat. For foods to eat, I recommend doing your own research to find what works for you and then coming up with basic meal plans to make sure you’re getting enough of what you need. Floradix is recommended to be taken twice a day, so I’ll usually take it before I begin eating at this time as well.

This is a time where I’ll also take multivitamins and/or moringa tablets as well to aid with nutrients. If this is something you’re into, you can jump on the bandwagon as well!

So the basics of this are: speak to your doctor, come up with a game plan, come up with a meal plan, stock up on supplements/medications if you need them, and try to schedule any invasive appointments before Ramadan begins if you can. Please please please do not try to fast without making sure your body is in good physical health. We are told that it is okay to not fast if it is physically impossible for us. It’s frustrating to not be able to participate as normal, but there are so many other things we can do during this time to strengthen our deen and encourage our Ummah.

Do you meal plan for Ramadan? Are there any health measures you follow to make sure you’re ready for fasting? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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Ramadan Countdown Day 12

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

Today is day 12 which means that we are getting closer and closer to the most wonderful time of the year! Are you ready? I’m ready! And if you’re not ready, I’ve got another tip for you so that you can get a little bit more prepared! Beware, this is about to get a little serious.

This morning I watched a really good speech by Yasmin Mogahed on the topic of love. I know that it’s showing 40 minutes but you only need to watch the first 20. If you want the short version: there are different types of love and there is a space in our hearts that is reserved only for our love for Allah (SWT). Now, love can turn into a form of worship very easily. A love of money or power can very quickly grow into an obsession that results in hurting ourselves and/or others.

If we don’t put Allah (SWT) first, that love that should be reserved for Him is directed at other things. And inevitably those other things bring us misery and pain because they aren’t supposed to be in that place in our hearts. This includes our children, our spouses, and our parents. If we try to replace our relationship with Allah (SWT) with our relationship with our spouse, that love will grow bitter very quickly. Allah (SWT) must always come first.

So all of that to say, take time today to reflect on what is at the center of your heart. What do you love most? If you have noticed that you’re dealing with resistance and emotional pain in your relationships, analyze that relationship. Do you put spending time with your loved ones over praying your salat on time? As Yasmin mentioned in her video, are you doing tawaf around your children? Is their football practice more important than dhuhr? And what about material things? Love for money can quickly turn into a desire to do whatever it takes and sacrifice one’s Deen in order to get it. Are you still making time to stay on deen while on your grind?

As I and everyone else has said: Ramadan is about worshipping Allah (SWT) and focusing on one’s deen. To get the most out of this, we need to have Him at the center of our hearts. When He occupies that space within us, it means that we are doing what is necessary to be good Muslims. It means that we are praying our salat on time regardless of what else is going on and what other people think. I means that we are reading the Quran, memorising it, and reflecting on it throughout the day. It means that we embrace halal and turn away completely from haram. I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Taking time to recenter your heart as Yasmin talks about, is essential.

Is there something that you love so much, it’s become painful for you? Has it distracted you from what truly matters and given you nothing in return? If so, I encourage you to take a quick peek at the video linked above. It’s worth the watch and will definitely change your perspective on what love is.

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ramadan, Uncategorized

Ramadan Countdown Day 13

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

Today is day 13 of our Ramadan Countdown and today we are going to talk about getting ourselves in a grateful mindset. This may already come naturally to you or you may have been practicing gratitude already so this will just be a refresher. Or maybe you need some motivation, maybe you’ve felt yourself getting stuck in a negative cycle and are trying to find a way out. Whatever your situation is now, gratitude is a sure way to start with having the best attitude you can have.

Gratitude sometimes needs to be forced. It’s difficult to feel grateful when it seems almost impossible to see the good in our lives. So like every lifestyle blogger will tell you, start your day off by making a list of things you are grateful for. Yay! Isn’t this fun?

But for real, that’s actually a decent way to start and sometimes the only way to start. You can write about shallow things that you’re grateful for, like warm weather or food. Or you can get even deeper with it. Pick something or someone that’s really been frustrating you lately and find something about it/them that you can admire. Let’s say your spouse/parents/roommate is driving you nuts since they’ve been home during the lockdown. It’s pretty difficult to see the positive in the situation if they’ve brought in a negative “vibe” and are always complaining. If you let yourself stew on these details, it will produce a snowball effect until you’ve convinced yourself you hate them and they are the worst person on the planet. Now, take a few minutes to write a list about all of the things you love about that person and what they do. An example could be: they work hard, they look after me, they cook really good food and share it with me, they cuddle me at night, we have really good conversations, they know how to have fun, etc. Etc.

Now how do you see this person? They’re pretty great, right? So if that works for one person, imagine how well it could work for everything else in your life. I know gratitude isn’t going to pay your bills or make you healthy, or take away concrete issues but it can at least take away any unnecessary mental grief and put you in a more growth-oriented state of mind.

So, what does this have to do with Ramadan? Ramadan is a real struggle and often when we’re in the midst of stuff like this, it’s easy to lose sight of all the good around us. Instead we often focus on the negative like how hungry we are, which makes us annoyed at our loved ones, which plants anger in our hearts. This leads to ill thoughts and maybe even wrong actions or words towards someone. This takes away from the focus on our Deen and on Allah (SWT) which is the true meaning of Ramadan. To get the most out of it, it’s best to start with a greatful heart and mind so that we can make progress.

What are you greatful for? Let me know in the comments below!

Assalaamu alaikum!

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Ramadan Countdown Day 14

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

It is day 14 of our Ramadan Countdown which means it is officially two weeks till Ramadan, insha’Allah! Woop woop!

Today’s goal is to clean out and organize those playlists. I’m talking about music, TV, movies, audio books, YouTube videos, etc. Whatever media you are consuming, it’s time to make it halal for the holiest month of the year. Insha’allah by the end of today, I’ll have mine done and ready to go. I like to start off with Spotify. No judgment towards anyone who listens to music because I still listen to it sometimes as well. Alhamdulillah, I don’t nearly as much as I used to and I’m getting a lot better at listening to podcasts but it’s still a process.

So, since last year some songs have creeped up in my playlists that I’m thinking I don’t need in my life anymore. Instead, I’m going to be deleting them for good and creating brand new playlists comprised of nasheeds and educational Islamic and development-oriented podcasts. If you haven’t heard of them before, nasheeds are the Islamic equivalent of “worship music.” They are a Capella and most of the time sung in Arabic.

I’m doing this so that I only fill my head with halal and educational things as opposed to some guy talking about how much money he has and what he likes to do to women in his spare time. Thinking about it like that, I’m realising how trashy it all is.

Next, I like to set up my YouTube playlist with educational Islamic and self-development speeches and videos. This gives me something visual to turn to in my downtime. I love cartoons and it’s so tempting to sit back and chill with an episode or two when there’s nothing else to do, but Family Guy isn’t really going to keep me focused on deen. I’m not saying you can’t watch movies or TV during Ramadan, but I think it’s good to be mindful of the quality of the stuff we’re watching during the month. If it’s got a lot of haram going on, it feels kind of counterproductive to be watching it.

I also like to go through my phone and delete any memes, photos, videos or apps that might distract me from being my best, most productive self. This could be Snapchat or TikTok or any dirty joke memes someone keeps sending in the group chat. Anything that you feel addicted to or that puts unnecessary thoughts in your head can qualify for the bin.

What are you taking a break from this Ramadan? And what are you listening to/watching instead? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ramadan Countdown Day 16

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

It’s day 16 of our Ramadan Countdown and I’m starting to get really excited for next month. The weather is beautiful here in London as British summertime has finally kicked in. Alhamdulillah! With all of this sunshine and warmth, I’ve been spending lots of time outside. Despite the lockdown, we’ve managed to find plenty to do around the garden. It’s also been nice to go out for our once daily exercise and today, we chose the park. It was worth it; there were cherry trees lining the path we were walking, the sun was shining so bright, there was a nice little breeze going and it was practically perfect. I swear there really is nothing like summer in the UK. You can feel the happiness in the air; even now with all of the uncertainty and sadness, it still persists.

Today’s advice is going to be about health (again, I know). We should continue to strengthen our bodies and minds by getting outside (even if you’re stuck in your garden) and enjoy some physical activity. Do a home workout, run, garden, paint, soak in the sun, do whatever makes your body feel good. During Ramadan, as good as our intentions may be, physical activity is usually the last thing on our minds. Going without food and drink during the day is intense and your body can’t handle vigorous physical movement. Even going out in the sun feels precarious because all you end up feeling is thirsty.

Enjoy the outdoors as much as is safe for right now. Get your body up and moving. If there is anything that needs to be done around the house or garden, go ahead and tackle those projects now. My in laws and I spent most of our day gardening yesterday and I can honestly say that there is no way I’d be able to do any of that while fasting. If you don’t know where to start, make a list of most to least important and start from the top. If trees desperately need trimming before they start flowering, go ahead and trim them. Need to pressure wash the house? Do it now. Car needs maintenance? Roll up those sleeves!

I know this isn’t the most exciting step of Ramadan preparation for some, but I think it’s essential and definitely worth it in the end. And for those in the UK, it’s definitely the time of year to soak up that rare and beautiful sunshine. Like I’ve heard said many times, British people are the best in summertime because they know how to appreciate it. Could be true! I’m from the southern United States, and we just complain no matter what season it is.

Thank you so much for reading and check back tomorrow for day 16’s advice! Could it be life changing? Who knows. You’ll just have to see for yourself!

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ramadan, Uncategorized

Ramadan Countdown Day 17

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

It’s day 17 of our Ramadan Countdown and today I want to talk about what to do if you’re worried about losing too much weight in the upcoming month. Diet advice often takes a very 2D approach where it assumes that everyone is trying to lose weight. Thankfully we live in a time now that people are more aware and we know that all bodies are different and skinny isn’t the only standard for health and beauty.

With that being said, there are just as many people trying to gain weight as there are trying to lose weight. So if you are one of those who needs to keep weight on or gain a few pounds, my suggestion is now to avoid intermittent fasting at all costs and focus instead on safely incorporating more food into your day. If you eat as much as you usually do between iftar and suhoor, you will lose weight during Ramadan. If that’s not your goal, we want to try and avoid that as much as possible.

Please don’t attempt to stuff yourself to the point where you get sick. If you can, look into protein and carb rich meals and snacks. This can look like protein shakes/bars, nuts, porridge, potatoes, beans, bread, meat, homemade popcorn, etc. Please forgive my lack of creativity with food suggestions, I’m no dietician and eat the same thing every day. Basically what I’m saying is, focus on getting your weight up in a healthy way before Ramadan starts. This way you’re off to a strong start and you won’t have to try to stuff yourself after you break your fast, insha’Allah.

Ps: Please forgive my extreme lateness in posting this. I got roped into extreme gardening today. It should be a sport, my whole body hurts.

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Ramadan Countdown Day 18

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

It is day 18 of the Ramadan Countdown and today I want to talk about another very important healthy habit to start practicing. It’s a long-time favourite and internet-certified cure-all. That’s right, you guessed it: drinking water.

During Ramadan not only do we not eat food during the day, we also don’t drink any liquids. With that being the case, my family and I usually end up drinking around 2 litres of water between iftar and suhoor. This is necessary to stay hydrated but it can feel like way too much at first. As soon as the fast is broken, I can’t get enough to drink, but a few sips in and I have to tap out.

The key is to get started a few weeks in advance so that your body can get used to taking in its daily supply of water within a few hours. If you already drink lots of water, congratulations! You have achieved a level of adulting that I have not mastered yet. And if you’re like me, start your morning off with a big glass of water. If you have a 32 Oz water bottle or an equivalent, fill it up and challenge yourself to drink it before noon. And then when that’s done, fill it up again and try to drink through the whole thing before dinner time.

Practice taking slow sips, don’t try to gulp it all down at once. Have the bottle/glass/Mason jar by your side throughout the day. Make staying hydrated a deliberate part of your daily routine. It’s important to start off Ramadan on a strong foot if you can. So, making sure that your body is already hydrated will keep you from suffering of thirst as much as possible during the day. You will also be ready to down those 2 litres between iftar and suhoor like a pro!

To go along with this, try to slowly cut down on caffeinated drinks as well. Obviously if we rely on things like coffee or tea throughout the day, Ramadan will be a real kick in the butt. If we can try to cut the habit now, (I know it’s asking a lot, I’m sorry!) we can potentially make life a little bit easier for ourselves down the road, insha’Allah.

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